I step off the airplane onto the tarmac and the 110-degree air wraps itself around me like a hot, damp blanket. I grab my bags and start walking toward the tap-tap where the group was waiting for me, sweat already dripping down my back. For a moment I’m distracted from my discomfort by the beautiful sounds of Creole spoken all around me as Haitians surround us showing us their colorful bracelets and handbags.
As we ride into the village, I can feel my inner temperature rising. My jeans feel like they weigh 200 pounds and my t-shirt is soaked in a matter of minutes. I know this will be a week of incredible sights, sounds and ministry opportunities with the sweet people of this country, yet also uncomfortable for my flesh. I will be hot. I would come home with more mosquito bites than I could count. I would live off peanut butter and jelly and eggs. In this country women didn’t wear shorts or tank tops. I was a visitor who wanted desperately to share Jesus with them so if that meant jeans in 110 degrees then I would wear jeans.
I realized that week just how difficult it is to submit to something, someone, somewhere when I’m uncomfortable or want to do things my own way. I came home to my local church where I served as worship pastor and had a moment with the Lord that has changed the way that I look at church leadership, decisions and my role on a church staff.
I call submission a lost art because I believe my generation has grown accustomed to doing this on our own terms, even in ministry. In a social media driven world it can be confusing to have an entire platform built around us and our persona and simultaneously serve the Kingdom of God where the last shall be first and the first shall be last. This tension is felt every single day of our lives as we sit in staff meetings and as artists know what we see and feel and hear but it’s not always in alignment with what God is doing in the church at that time.
If we are going to have longevity in the local church as respected pastors and leaders, we must learn how to submit to the mission, vision and leadership of the church we have CHOSEN to serve. Nobody forced us to take our position. Nobody is holding us hostage in a building. We said YES to this body, this culture, this leadership and now we must learn how to submit even at times we don’t agree with a decision or direction. Even when it feels like our clothes weigh 200 pounds. Even when we sing the same songs every week that taste just like the same old PB&J. Even when we’re screaming for change and progress and are met with resistance, we must be able to hear the Lord asking us, “Do you trust I have led you here?” “Do you believe I have you in this place for a reason?” “Will you submit to this leadership so I can use you fully in every capacity?”
You will find that once you fully submit, you can serve with much more joy, direction and confidence because you won’t be guessing on what leadership wants from you each week. The target won’t feel like it’s moving as much. Conversations will feel lighter and less confusing. You will be able to cast vision for your team using the language of your leadership and not your own. You will encourage others to put their jeans on and get into the trenches and do it with passion and hope for the future. You will demonstrate to the next generation what a cheerful heart looks like, what serving others and washing the feet of the people you serve can feel like when everyone is working in unity.
I have been in seasons where I have had to walk away from a ministry or church because I could no longer align myself with the direction they were going as an organization. I had submitted, I had surrendered, but when the Lord finally released me from that mission, I was able to walk away in freedom knowing that I had gone as far as I could with them in truth, humility and love. Submission is not staying somewhere that is dangerous or under poor leadership that is costing you your health and mental well-being.
You will know what season you are in as you lean closer into the Holy Spirit, fasting and praying over leadership and the people you lead. He will show you where to submit, where to press in, when to fight and when to stand down. You will find that He is drawn to unity and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM! Let’s all lead the people of God from a place of freedom, even in our hottest, sweatiest seasons. You will forget about the discomfort the moment you hear the voices of His people singing all around you.